How Social determinants of Health and Wellbeing


Good health and wellbeing are affected by more than just diet, exercise and genetics. The conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age also play a major role. These social determinants of health encompass factors like socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood and physical environment, employment, social support networks and access to health care. Addressing these social factors can create more opportunities for people to make healthy choices and lead flourishing lives. This article will examine the key social determinants of health and how they impact wellbeing.

Socioeconomic Status

A person’s socioeconomic status, which includes income, education and occupation, has a significant influence on health outcomes. Those with lower incomes or educational attainment are more likely to experience poorer health and shorter life expectancies. Poverty can limit access to healthy foods, safe housing and health services. Financial hardship causes chronic stress, which negatively affects both physical and mental health. Improving socioeconomic conditions for disadvantaged groups through livable wages, quality education and job opportunities can help mitigate these effects.


Higher levels of education are linked to better health outcomes. Education equips people with knowledge and skills for problem-solving, provides a sense of control and helps motivate healthier behaviors. Those with less education are more likely to experience unemployment, lower incomes, and higher stress. They may lack awareness or resources to access health services, manage illnesses or adopt preventive health measures. Policies and programs to encourage school completion and promote lifelong learning can empower people to make informed health decisions.

Physical Environment

The physical conditions where people live, learn, work and play have a major influence on health. Access to clean water, fresh produce and green spaces encourages healthy lifestyles. Polluted or dangerous neighborhoods with few parks for recreation and socializing present challenges. Built environments designed for cars instead of pedestrians and cyclists discourage physical activity. Poor quality housing with overcrowding, inadequate heating/cooling, lead paint or pest infestations trigger illnesses and injuries. Creating more livable communities with sustainable resources and amenities can foster wellbeing.

Employment Conditions

Employment provides income and a sense of identity and purpose. Stressful or hazardous working conditions increase risks for physical and mental health problems. Lack of autonomy, excessive hours, job insecurity and conflicts with co-workers take a toll. Unemployment or unstable employment causes financial strain and psychological distress. Workplace policies regarding paid leave, childcare and flexible schedules enable people to take better care of their health. More inclusive hiring practices and job training programs can empower disadvantaged groups.

Social Support Networks

Supportive relationships with family, friends and the community promote health. Social connection provides a buffer against life’s stresses and enhances coping abilities. Isolation and loneliness are linked to poorer physical and mental health. Building social capital through policies and public spaces that foster community cohesion can benefit wellbeing. Caregiving support for aging or disabled family can also facilitate their independence. Digital tools provide new opportunities for social interaction to those with limited mobility or in remote areas.

Health Care Access

Access to affordable, quality health services is critical for preventing and managing illness. Lack of insurance coverage is a major barrier, disproportionately affecting minorities and low-income groups. Shortages of primary care providers limit access to regular check-ups and care coordination. Rural residents without reliable transportation struggle to get to medical appointments. Telemedicine and community clinics are helping bridge some access gaps. Policy reforms to expand insurance coverage and build up public health infrastructure can ensure more equitable access.


Our health is profoundly shaped by the social, economic and physical conditions in our communities. Disparities in these determinants contribute to unfair and avoidable health inequities. Creating the conditions for all people to attain their full health potential will require policies and partnerships across all sectors of society to address these systemic issues. Promoting education, employment, social support, healthy environments and universal health care access can help build a society in which everyone has a fair chance to live a flourishing life.

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